Crash Space

I’ve been playing around with the Loud Objects Noise Toy for a while now, trying to figure out how to reporgram it. I’ve figured out quite a bit, but there isn’t really any documentation and there seems to be an assumption that you know what you’re doing to start with.

I don’t.

What I need to do is surround myself with people who do know what they’re doing. What I need is a hackerspace. NYC Resistor and Noisebridge are lousy with people who know AVR programming. But in the past, Los Angeles didn’t have a hackerspace (Machine Project is really cool, and I’m a member, but it’s not quite a hackerspace.)

In mid-October, Sean Bonner posted on his blog about starting a hackerspace in Los Angeles. I found out about in late October and signed up for the mailing list, expecting a long launch cycle where a committee decides that they want to start a hackerspace in Los Angeles.

Well, Sean is in a let’s-just-do-it mode, and the Sunday before Christmas, we had our first meeting in our new space. Welcome to Crash Space, our own local hackerspace.

What is a hackerspace? Forget any bad Hollywood connotations of the word “hacker.” There are hackerspaces all around the world, and they are places where people interested in building things – particularly electronics – can meet and work on projects. There are usually community tools and resources at the space that individuals might not have on their own, such as laser cutters, cnc mills, and 3D printers. Toys we can’t justify buying individually, but collectively we can afford.

The attraction for me is the people. My goal for Crash Space is to be the dumbest guy in the room (that way I can learn from everyone). Fortunately, it’s not that hard – there are a lot of scary smart people there. There’s also a real community spirit, in part because we’re in that let’s-put-on-a-show-in-the-barn startup mode, but also because anyone who doesn’t want to be part of a community is just going to stay home.

At last night’s meeting, Tod Kurt was doing show-and-tell of a cool prototype he’s working on that is (list most electronic things these days) based on an AVR microcontroller. I showed him the Noise Toy and told him I had figured out the compiler and communicating with it, but not the programming. We looked at my code and he immediately spotted what I did wrong. It was, of course, a stupid mistake (but at least I had a comment on the line wondering “why?”).

So, a couple minutes at Crash Space solved what weeks of futzing about on my own didn’t. I probably would have figured it out eventually, but Tod saved myself an awful lot of time.

I still have a lot to learn, but at least I have a better idea of what I’m doing now.

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